The veteran Australian producer was a guiding light for Peter Weir and a mentor for many film students.
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28 Jan 2013 - 1:03 PM  UPDATED 28 Jan 2013 - 1:03 PM

Patricia (Pat) Lovell, who died on Saturday, aged 83, is remembered by colleagues and friends as a passionate, committed producer and a wonderful mentor.

Lovell, who executive produced Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock and produced his WW1 epic Gallipoli, had been in ill health for some years, suffering liver cancer. Two generations of Australian kids and their parents knew her as Miss Pat, the presenter of ABC-TV's Mr Squiggle and Friends, partnered with a puppet.

Said former Atlab executive Dominic Case, “Pat was one of the prime movers behind the Australian film revival of the 1970s, after (she might have said 'despite') her fame as Miss Pat on Mr Squiggle.”

“A great Australian, a fine producer, and a fair dinkum gal,” declared actor David Argue, who played a virginal Presbyterian youth in Gallipoli. “I'm proud to be in the age bracket that grew up watching her on TV; she had true class and a raucous laugh. Gallipoli was my first real film and Pat was truly awesome to watch in action. She and Weir had a bond that was remarkable. To me she was a true digger.”

Music producer Mark Opitz recalled, “Squiggle was my first job at ABC-TV, I later went to work with Pat on Monkey Grip; such a lovely, honest and committed woman.“

Jacqui North, film festival co-ordinator at the National Film and Sound Archive, was a colleague of Lovell's in the producing department of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School from 1997-2000. She said, “I learned far more from Pat than when I was a student: (she was) courageous and forthright.”

News Limited CEO Kim Williams hired Lovell as the publicist for the contemporary music festival Music Rostrum Australia, where he was general manager and Roger Woodward was artistic director, in 1974-75. “Pat was indefatigable and was a cheery source of energy and drive,” he said. They remained friends and she arranged producer placements for her students at Fox Studios Australia and later Foxtel when Williams ran those organisations. Together they organised a surprise, 3-hour session with George Lucas at the AFTRS while he was shooting two Star Wars pictures at the studio.

“Pat was an inspirational role model, a generous teacher and very funny lady,” said producer Heather Ogilvie.

Lovell started out as an actress in radio programs for the ABC in the 1950s and hosted Mr Squiggle from 1960-1975. While working as a presenter on a Channel 7 current affairs show she met Weir after he'd made the short film Homesdale in 1971.

She gave him a copy of Joan Lindsay's novel Picnic at Hanging Rock and she funded the development of the film until it was backed by the South Australian Film Corp., Greater Union and the Australian Film Development Corp. and shot in 1975.

In 1979 the director asked Lovell to produce Gallipoli (1981) and she secured the funding from Greater Union and Associated R & R Films, a new and short-lived alliance between Rupert Murdoch and Robert Stigwood.

Among Lovell's other film credits were Ken Hannam's Break of Day (1976) and Summerfield (1977) and Ken Cameron's Monkey Grip (1981). Her final screen credit was Tosca - A Tale of Love and Torture, a 2000 documentary which was a behind-the-scenes look at an Australian Opera production.

Lovell was a member of the Australian Film Commission board from 1977-1983 and from 1996-2003 was head of producing at the AFTRS. Among her honours, she was awarded an MBE for services to film and television, an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) and in 2004 received the Australian Film Institute's Raymond Longford Award for lifetime achievement. In 2010 she was presented with the National Film and Sound Archive's Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award.

Lovell is survived by son Simon and daughter Jenny.